Massage therapy is a vital tool within hospice care. It provides comfort and healing to patients physically, emotionally and spiritually. But many caregivers wonder how they can lend a healing hand in between massage therapy visits. Leah Phillipson, massage therapist, Parkview Home Health & Hospice, shares some safe strategies for soothing a loved one throughout their hospice journey.
What is hospice massage therapy?
Hospice massage therapy focuses on two main aspects. The massage is for the body, and the therapy is for a person’s spirit and soul, aiding in renewal. Massage therapy is a whole-body experience. It uses very slow and very gentle massage techniques focused on improving physical and emotional symptoms. Hospice massage therapy is primarily for the comfort and relaxation of the patient. And while it varies from person to person, I’m simply there for what they need at that moment in time.
What are the benefits of hospice massage therapy?
There are numerous advantages to this type of massage therapy. It helps to alleviate pain and discomfort associated with an illness, providing relief and relaxation for most hospice patients. It has many benefits, including:
- Alleviating stress on the body
- Easing discomfort or pain through physical touch
- Relieving insomnia and other sleep struggles
- Boosting the body’s immune system
- Offering physical benefits like lowering blood pressure, stabilizing heart rate, improving circulation, aiding in digestion, nausea relief and stimulating the release of endorphins
- Providing a sense of peace and comfort, easing a patient’s fear, depression and anxiety
Additionally, because hospice patients are already in a fragile or vulnerable state, something as simple as a gentle touch, massaging the scalp or foot can be one of the most compassionate things we can offer. In many cases, the hospice massage therapist is an advocate for the patient and their needs, offering an elevated level of care and allowing them to relax in whatever capacity they need.
When should massage therapy be utilized?
We utilize massage therapy for both end-of-life comfort care as well as rehabilitation. Typically, I see most patients once a month unless there is an expressed need, in which case I will visit them more frequently. But, in my absence, there are steps caregivers can take to offer their loved ones a calm and healing experience.
What are some simple and safe techniques caregivers can use to soothe their loved ones between visits?
Comforting a loved one during their hospice journey is easier than you might think. There are many ways to provide relief in between massage therapy visits. Some of my favorite suggestions include:
- Creating a soothing atmosphere for your loved one
- Playing relaxing music to set the tone and mood
- Diffusing their favorite essential oils
- Using lavender lotion when giving light scalp massages and gentle touch
- Employing safe reflexology techniques as instructed by a massage therapist
- Wrapping them in comfort by using cozy clothes, soft blankets and warm socks
Often massage therapy is seen as an add-on service rather than a necessity. But it’s such a vital part of the hospice journey. It offers so much comfort and pain relief for patients and can be a viable option for caregivers to soothe and calm their loved ones in their time of need.
The dedicated staff at Parkview Home Health and Hospice is committed to helping bring compassion and dignity to all services for you and your loved ones. For more information about how Parkview Hospice can provide you or a loved one with compassionate care at the end of life or would like more information on massage therapy services, please call 260-373-9800 or 800-363-9977 Monday through Friday.